The Omen is regarded by many as one of the scariest films ever made and with good reason. Kids are creepy, especially the quiet ones. The ones that are a little too clean, you know the type. Well kept, polite and devoid of jam: Small, sickly looking and probably the antichrist. A brilliant antagonist for a horror game you might think and you’d be right from Fatal Frame to FEAR the horror genre is littered with freaky little bastards just waiting to kill you in the most twisted ways possible. What makes Lucius unique is that you don’t run away from the demonic child. You are the Demonic child.
Lucius Wagner born on 6th July 1966 is the antichrist. He knows this because on his 6th birthday he is visited in his dreams by Lucifer aka the Devil. He promptly explains that he can provide Lucius with all the power he needs to rule the earth so long as he provides him with souls. So unlike any balanced person who would have woken up and thought to themselves bloody hell that was weird Lucius embarks on a campaign to murder the other inhabitants of Dante manor thereby inheriting his parent’s fortune and gaining favour with Satan.
What follows appears to the outside world as a series of unfortunate accidents. A maid collapses in the freezer, a piano falls on the handyman while he’s trying to fix it. A family friend is set alight in a gas explosion from a faulty cooker. However as the body count rises so do the suspicions of local law enforcement and as the family begins to believe there really is some kind of demonic presence at work in the house, The church.
The whole tale although not particularly original is still compelling thanks to strong performances from the games main cast especially Lucius’s mother Nancy, who’s decent from carefree socialite to distraught shell is as chilling as it is evocative. Watching her reactions to her son transform from disinterest and vague affection into being genuinely terrified of her own child makes your actions in game feel more palpable as well as chronicle Lucius’s own evolution from a relative innocent into a cold hearted killer.
The cinematic feel of the game is bolstered by its rather stellar soundtrack that does a great job of helping to maintain the games tense and bleak atmosphere while you stalk the halls of Dante Manor.
The manor itself is an incredibly oppressive and well realised setting with claustrophobic winding corridors that reminded me a lot of the Mansion from the Shining or the House of Usher. Nothing appears to be wasted as every room has a plausible use within the game’s world and there’s a million and one little details in the background that make the house feel like a real place.
The game is split into 19 chapters. At the beginning of each a new target is added to your notebook which you must then find within the confines of the mansion and eliminate.
Before I continue I think it would be a good time to let a few people down. This game is not Hit man Jr. Lucius, underneath all of the macabre trappings is a typical 3D point and click adventure. There is only one solution to killing your target and it is your job to decipher what that is in typical adventure game fashion. Finding objects, observing the environment and following clues given by eaves dropping on other characters as well as hints written down in Lucius’s notebook.
Lucius also has several supernatural powers given to him by Lucifer which he can call upon in order to help get the job done. The main power that you’ll use throughout the game will be telekinesis to turn on machinery at a distance or grab far away objects. However later on you do also gain to control other people’s minds for brief spells forcing them to do harm to themselves or wiping their memories.
This Is not to say you can just wander round the house forcing everyone to do your bidding and nonchalantly throw knives into the backs of the help. All of these powers are limited in their use by a power bar and more importantly you need to keep them secret. If anyone sees you using them it’s an instant Game Over. However this only happened to me on a couple of occasions when I accidentally used them and someone walked in.
The other time that the dreaded Game Over screen appeared was during the games stealth sections which involve Lucius sneaking around the grounds at night to collect more suspicious items he needs. In one section you need to sneak past your mother in order to make your way down stairs and across the ground to retrieve some rat poison. The problem is that the only way to do this is to hide in a closet with no way of knowing whether she has left the area or not. This means that on a couple of occasions you’d open the doors to fins her standing there.
This coupled with a lack of save function and few checkpoints lead to these sections feeling somewhat tedious and more punishing than they needed to be.
The other minor problems I had while playing the game were that at times the open world design of the manor felt like it was at odds with the games puzzles. You were free to pick up items at any point in the game so long as you could get to them. This meant that at times you would have items in your inventory that would be completely useless until later in the game and often you’d think you had the solution only for it to not work and then have to traipse round the house hunting for something else to use.
Also the notebook didn’t always provide you with sufficient information to correctly figure out your next step. For example in Chapter four you have to kill the family butcher. He’s in the meat locker cutting up raw meat. The Notebook tells you that he’s cutting up raw meat and to mess with him. It turns out you needed to break a light behind him with telekinesis forcing him to stand on a buzz saw to repair it. However the game gives absolutely no hint that this is what needs to be done.
Despite these minor gripes I would still recommend checking out Lucius for Its unique take on both point and clicks and the horror game genre. It’s subversive, grim and thoroughly entertaining. The kind of rare gem of a game that people talk about but never think would ever be actually released.
I applaud Shiver Games and Lace Mamba for having the guts to create such a potentially controversial and divisive title. It’s not without its problems but Lucius is still a strong opening effort from Shiver and I look forward to seeing what they have in store next.